A new study has revealed how diatoms’ glass-like shells help these microscopic organisms perform photosynthesis in low-light conditions. Improved solar cells, sensing devices, and optical components could result from a better understanding of how these phytoplankton harvests and interact with light. They developed a computational model and toolkit that could pave the way for mass-manufacturable, sustainable optical devices and more efficient light-harvesting tools based on diatom shells.
Diatoms are single-celled organisms found in almost any body of water. diatom shells are covered with holes that react differently to light depending on their size, spacing, and configuration. Researchers have published the first optical study of an entire diatom shell. They looked at how different parts of the shell, or frustules, react to sunlight and how this relates to photosynthesis.
Diatoms have evolved to survive in any aquatic environment over millions of years. It includes a shell comprising numerous regions collaborating to harvest sunlight. The optical response of diatom frustules was studied using computer optical simulations and microscopy techniques.
Researchers have created a new model of a diatom’s frustule, or shell, that allows them to harvest light at various wavelengths. It could improve solar panel absorption by allowing sunlight to be collected from more angles, reducing reliance on the panel facing the sun.
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